A Kind Of Magic

Queen

Capitol Records, 1986

http://www.queenonline.com/

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/02/1997

Goddammit, I hate moving! Living out of boxes is bad enough, as is the re-arranging of the Thelen living quarters. (Editor's note: Yeah, that's why I've moved again since this review ran.) The Pierce Memorial Archives is in complete shambles - either that, or I've developed an incredibly complex categorizing system - and the decent stereo is still in pieces.

So, I'm left to listening to tapes and CDs for a short time. Not knowing what box contains what, I went to the first box and grabbed the first thing that looked interesting. Lo and behold, it was Queen, who last graced these pages way back in January.

But the first two times I tried re-listening to their 1986 release A Kind Of Magic, I ended up falling asleep midway through the first side. I attributed this to exhaustion from the move. But now that I've actually plowed through the album, I realized that the point I fell asleep was the exact point the album went ashcan.

The album serves as Queen's first foray back into film soundtrack music since their debacle with Flash Gordon five years previous (and yes, I will eventually re-listen to that one... hell, I may even rent the film), with a song featured in Iron Eagle and other songs from Highlander. I am embarassed to admit I don't know which were in the latter, as I have never seen my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Highlander, nor do I have a desire to see it. Sorry - just not my taste in film.

The cut from Iron Eagle - "One Vision" - opens the album, and re-solidifies Queen's power as a rock band. Freddie Mercury has rarely been in such good vocal form, while Brian May's crunching guitar work provides a solid backdrop to the tune. (Of course I haven't forgotten about Roger Taylor's drum work and John Deacon's bass lines.) "One Vision" reaffirmed that Queen knew how to go balls-out - especially after "Radio Ga Ga" had seemingly turned them into an "electronic" band.

The title track is a shade weaker, but is still a decent number that gives May another chance to show off his chops, albeit more subdued. The song seems to fit better on the greatest hits package that came out in the wake of Mercury's death in 1992, but still shows why it fits in with this particular style of Queen music.

Sadly, the only other bright spot on A Kind Of Magic is the hauntingly beautiful "Who Wants To Live Forever," a song which, frankly, scares the shit out of me. The sparse arrangements on this number tend to remind the listener of their own mortality, a thought which I prefer not to think about. It also seems errie that Mercury would be singing about death - could he have possibly known back then that he was HIV-positive? I believe this was one of the songs from Highlander, a movie that features a character who does live forever - again, I haven't seen the film, so I am not positive. And while this track fits the storyline, after Mercury died, it almost seemed prophetic.

The remainder of A Kind Of Magic flounders around looking for a style to call its own. "One Year Of Love" fails to take off, while "Pain Is So Close To Pleasure" is not one of Queen's better quirky songs - and has another title which is quite approprite, 'cause this one is painful to listen to.

The whole second side - barring "Who Wants To Live Forever" - also falls under the weight, seemingly made up mostly of Highlander songs, such as "Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme)" (can we please stop using sound bites from the movie? Didn't we learn anything from the Flash Gordon soundtrack?) and "Princes Of The Universe," a song which seems to be reaching towards the bombastic old days of Queen. Too bad it doesn't succeed - it could have been a great track.

I know I have an outdated copy of A Kind Of Magic - it was remixed and rereleased with a bonus track by Hollywood Records - but I don't think much more could be done with this album. It has some great moments, but is just mediocre compared to other albums in Queen's catalog. Besides, the three great tracks are on the greatest hits packages. A Kind Of Magic is one that qualifies as a "diehard fans only" release.

Rating: C+

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.